How do things shape up now that Belmont Basketball is heading into the MVC?
According to recent reports, Belmont is reportedly departing the Ohio Valley Conference to accept a place in the Missouri Valley Conference. In recent years, Belmont Basketball has continued to prove themselves as one of the better under-the-radar mid-major programs in the country. The Nashville school rebuffed an earlier chance to join the MVC, but the current climate in the OVC made the move very appealing this time.
A few decades ago, Belmont wasn’t even a Division 1 program, but former longtime head basketball coach Rick Byrd is a big reason that today’s conference shift was even possible. He built this Bruins program, led them to the D1 level, and made them champions in multiple conference. Belmont originally joined the Atlantic Sun back in 2001 and eventually became a force in the conference, making four NCAA Tournament appearances while members of the A-Sun.
In 2012, Belmont transitioned to the OVC, making their way to a few more NCAA Tournaments, all while competing at the top with Murray State, who had already established themselves as the conference’s top program. Both of these programs garnered spotlight at the mid-major level over this last decade, and both of these OVC powers took part of and won a game in the 2019 NCAA Tournament. Even after Byrd’s retirement in 2019, Belmont continues to churn success under new coach Casey Alexander, a long time Belmont aide.
However, the winds of conference realignment have been blowing hard in recent months, and the OVC has been affected as well. This past year, Eastern Kentucky and Jacksonville State departed for the A-Sun, the very conference Belmont left less than a decade ago. Additional rumors indicate that other OVC schools could be poached, with Austin Peay already confirmed that they too would join the A-Sun. These moves leave the OVC currently at just nine members and with a significantly weaker basketball league behind Belmont and Murray State.
In what appears to be a proactive move, Belmont finds itself headed to the MVC. Consisting of ten solid mid-majors stretching from northeast Indiana to southern Missouri, the MVC has been one of the stronger mid-major conferences for decades, even with the departures of Creighton and Wichita State in the last decade. Belmont and Murray State were both reportedly favorites in 2017 when the conference chose Valparaiso to replace Wichita State. Now, it looks as if the MVC is fine expanding beyond 10 members.
This upcoming season, the MVC could seriously contender for multiple teams in the NCAA Tournament, having landed Drake and Loyola-Chicago (who combined for three Tourney wins) last season. While it wouldn’t be an immediate move, the addition of Belmont would only make the conference that much stronger. There’s no guarantee that there wouldn’t be some growing pains, but Belmont could become a force in the new league just as they have in their last two conferences.
There is still a lot of uncertainty as this cycle of conference realignment continues to spin around and around. If Belmont finds themselves joining the MVC, then it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see Murray State joining a new conference in the coming days or weeks. There’s nothing here but speculation, but it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see the MVC open their doors for a twelfth member, especially when the Racers were so eager to join four years ago. An MVC with these two OVC powers could be a league that annually gets multiple bids to the NCAA Tournament.
For now, Belmont’s winning ways and proud culture has led them to another promotion, as the MVC is a certain step up from the OVC, especially with Belmont’s absence. This Bruins program has been fantastic over the years, churning out tons of talent. Across the last few decades, these MVC teams have made their fair share of headlines in the postseason, especially the NCAA Tournament. Armed and dangerous and now in the MVC, are we a few years away from Belmont making their first deep NCAA Tournament run?